Our View: No sense of financial fairness
One third of employees in the Illinois State Police earn more than $100,000 a year. Most are line sergeants, not senior commanders. The Illinois Department of Human Services has 674 employees making $100,000 or more. Some are doctors. Many are not.
A Gateway Media study also found that the state has 6,215 workers, 8 percent of its work force, making $100,000 or more. And that club has expanded by 1,131 since 2012. Gov. Pat Quinn makes $177,000, but that puts him only as the 687th highest-paid employee on the state payroll.
Amazing. Pardon us while we gasp at these figures.
If you make $100,000 a year, you may wish that you earned $125,000. For the rest of us making half of six figures or less, life is a different game. The wealth disparity in the nation is well-documented fact. What it means, at least among many Illinois families, is a growing cynicism with the preposterous compensation of public employees.
We are told that government must pay well or we will lose competent employees to competitors and the state will suffer. But the state is already suffering with a burdensome payroll, and we sense no celebration about the quality of its government services.
Public employees for decades were paid less than most working in the private sector but offset that somewhat by enjoying better benefits, including more time off. But that income gap has closed steadily during the past 20 years or so, largely because public employee unions have been able to get good contracts for their members.
The financial elevator goes only up for some and only down for others, and the speed seems faster every day. The old argument about financial success flowing to those who work harder no long seems plausible. There are more $40,000-a-year workers unable to get on the rising elevator.
In Illinois and elsewhere, we are increasingly becoming two societies — one that makes a lot of money and expects to earn more, and another that works just as hard or harder and earns much less. That inequity cannot be sustained without serious social consequences.